Basic fruit tree pruning principles like the ones found in our free 9 part fruit tree pruning course apply to peaches, but there are a few specific details that should be considered when pruning peaches.
Peaches are the most ambitious of all fruit trees. One of the most common problems I find with peach trees are broken branches that have failed under heavy fruit loads. Everybody loves to bite into a ripe juicy peach straight from the tree, and the hardest part of pruning is cutting away most of the fruiting wood and then thinning away 40 to 60 percent of the remaining fruit.
When my students see all of the branches on the ground under their peach tree after a good heavy pruning, they often ask, "Is there anything left?" I have to explain that it's better to cut away branches than to watch peaches get bigger and bigger, and then just a few weeks before harvest watch the branch fail, and take all of the fruit with it. Inevitably, when it does fail, it will fail at the worst possible place on the tree.
Peaches grow on last year's new branches. These branches are often the weakest ones on the tree. Aggressively pruning your fruit tree will have several benefits, the first being that you will reduce the quantity and length of branches making them better suited for supporting heavy fruit loads. Secondly, pruning preach trees aggressively will stimulate a lot of new growth, that will become the fruiting branches the following season. In other words, you are limiting your fruit production this years, so you can guarantee a greater harvest next year.
Besides branch failure, peaches are susceptible to diseases like Aphids, Coryneum Blight and Cytospora. It is important to time your pruning to avoid unnecessary stress, but still allow enough time to organically treat your tree before the buds open. Don't prune peach trees too early, and don't prune them too late.
Peach trees are also susceptible to sun scald. We just suggested a heavy annual pruning and an open center for peach trees, but it's important to not make the biggest mistake that gardeners make when pruning open center fruit trees, which is, letting large branches get scalded in the winter sun.
If you are new to pruning fruit trees, please visit our free 9 part fruit tree pruning course. If you have specific questions about the care and pruning of you peach trees, please join our Backyard Fruit Growers Facebook Group and subscribe to our Fruit Pruning YouTube Channel.